Friday, November 12, 2010

No Mention of Peppero Here Whatsoever...

... actually, I lie. If you want to go outside at ALL in Korea on the 11th of November, you better be prepared to be inundated by people waving peppero at you EVERYWHERE. In fact, really, you should be prepared for this all week, because the advertising starts early (in the tradition of pushy advertising) and if you are dumb enough to go to a supermarket like I was last night, you should be prepared to see grown adults in a near scrum over boxes of these chocolate covered biscuit sticks. Which is quite interesting seeing as this isn't even a real holiday, and in fact is widely acknowledged to have been encouraged, if not actually started (and heavily denied) by the Peppero company about 8 years ago (?) because the number 11 looks like two peppero sticks. Never mind that it also looks like many other things that are sticks or even sticks themselves - where's the profit in that?

Adorable if a little scary.
At any rate, for those of you not in the know, on Peppero Day you usually give peppero to people that you like such as your friends, people you respect (like teachers) or that crush you've been looking for a subtle way to express your feelings to. So I can't be too cynical about this day, as I did quite well out of it. I ended up with about 9 different lots of peppero, and a chocopie in lieu of peppero because one student didn't have any peppero to give (presumably because by the time they remembered to buy some, the shop shelves had been utterly ransacked) but the colours are the same so it was a pretty good substitution! To give you some idea of how crazy this gets, Min-Jae (scroll down for a picture of her) told me that she got more than 20 from her friends! But her brother only got one ㅠ_ㅠ...

Above is a picture of the ones I didn't scoff for recess, as well as a really cute card here on the left from one of my loveliest students to go with the peppero that she gave me. I thought it was awesome, even though she drew herself with a kind of screaming zombie face.

As you can see, in the face of all this peppero, Remembrance Day barely gets a look in. In fact, when I was doing a lesson on special days earlier in the year and we were going through a list of days celebrated in Australia, and I asked "so what is celebrated on the 11th of November?" , even though it was written down in front of them, most students STILL said "Peppero Day!" with what I thought was extreme optimism. Needless to say, wearing a red poppy seemed a little bland. At any rate, I still wore red today (no poppies) and as most peppero packets (or chocopies) are red too, it was quite fitting.

And here we move onto Reason #2 for why I started this blog - the food! (good guess Naomi ^_^)

Because today was not JUST Peppero Day - it was also a great food day! In both amount and quality. So I am quite lucky in that my school lunches are really good and always edible AND recognisable, and also that I'm quite used to Korean food (we all know that means I LOVE it and could easily eat my way out of a vat of it) and, not to put too fine a point on it (because I know that the school lunches are one of the biggest continuing problems that foreign teachers have with their schools), willing to give most things a go, even if I know it's probably going to burn like the bejeezus on the way... through... : s So I never go hungry during the day. BUT I am also incredibly lucky in that I have been somewhat adopted (yes, again) by the lady who runs the supermarket near my house. Which in Korea means that I never have to buy my own kimchi again! This is especially fortuitous this year as following a number of typhoons earlier in the year, the price of vegetables has skyrocketed, and it's possibly the first time that buying ready-made kimchi has actually been cheaper than making your own (which is also a big part of Korean culture and food). The whole family is also super friendly and the kids are absolutely adorable so it's really easy talking to them all in Korean and they don't make me feel like a complete moron when I make mistakes.

Super Onni's "simple dinner" minus the 파전 and 미역국
So today Hee-Jeong (I call her Super Onni because I both love bad puns and she is!) invited me over for some dwenjang-guk (된장국) or bean-paste soup, which is a bit different from dwenjang-jjigae (된장찌개), the bean-paste stew that you usually get (or rather, got, pre-vegetable crisis) with any kind of Korean BBQ'd meat. This mostly just has the bean paste and a kind of Korean silverbeet in it rather than the basic Korean stew vegetables and clams, and is of course delicious! Being very lazy and with the weather going CRAZY outside with wind and rain and all sorts of a hullaballoo storming it up, I skipped the gym and had a nap. In retrospect, I really wish I'd made the effort to go, as "just 된장국" turned out to be 된장국 plus the requisite side-dishes you always get with a good Korean meal, plus beer, plus pajeon (파전) or savoury pancakes, plus MORE beer, PLUS miyok-guk (미역국) or seaweed soup because it's her daughter Min-Jae's birthday tomorrow and it's a Korean tradition to eat 미역국 on your birthday. (This is to commemorate your mother giving birth to you and eating seaweed soup to restore her iron levels.) Needless to say, I ate and drank far more than was good for me (yes, I eat like a man and can never resist just one more bite)!

With Super Onni's kids, Min-Jae and Min-Seong
And just when I thought the food overload was done, Super Onni gives me a 2kg container full of kimchi and about four other containers of other side-dishes to take home with me! ...Seriously, gym next week for sure. And of course, because he is a gentleman and his sister had just given me about 3kgs of food, Super Onni's brother Jin (who is a champ and always makes an effort to speak in both Korean and English with me) walked me home and carried it for me. Granted, it was only about 300m away, but I was grateful nonetheless.

So to summarise, I put absolutely NO effort into feeding myself today. Most appropriate quote for the day: "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers..." Except change 'strangers' to Koreans. Great day : D


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